On Folly Beach by Karen White

Karen White‘s On Folly Beach shifts between two time periods — 2009 and 1942 — and between two women’s lives — Emmy Hamilton and Lulu.  Emmy lost her husband six months ago to the war in Afghanistan and loves solving mysteries with old documents and books, and Lulu is a complicated older woman with a lot of secrets and a penchant for bottle tree artistry.

“The shirt was a poor substitute for his arms, and wearing it in Ben’s absence was something her mother had told her was like swimming with a raincoat.”  (page 2)

Emmy is empty in her grief and unwilling to move on, but her mother convinces her to move from Indiana to South Carolina and buy a bookstore, Folly’s Finds, which served as the model for her mother’s bookstore.  Once in her newly rented house, she meets Lulu, her grandson Heath, Heath’s mother Abigail, and the rest of the family.  But her journey begins with a box of old books, and she strives to unravel the mystery of two star-crossed lovers.  Emmy has a journey back to the living to embark upon as well.

“‘Like right now? Don’t you need a bathing suit?’

He smiled and the wrinkles at the corners of his eyes reminded Emmy of his mother.  ‘Don’t need one.’  He walked past her, then stopped when he realized she wasn’t following him.

‘I’ll wait here.’

“I’ll keep my shorts on, promise.'”  (page 129)

White’s characters have their own personalities and evolve carefully over the alternating chapters.  The WWII chapters transport readers back in time, making the fear of war as vivid as the dances on the ocean pier.  But with the prevalence of chapters in the present, it is clear that this is Emmy and Lulu’s story. Emmy becomes the amateur detective that Lulu played when she was a young girl living with her sister, Maggie and cousin Cat.

On Folly Beach by Karen White uses a variety of water and wind imagery to mimic the foolish choices made by the main characters and mirror the dramatic choices that they make out of loyalty and love.  White creates dynamic characters who are deeply flawed and who are in search of peace and love, like many of us.  Bibliophiles will enjoy the literary references, the characters named for Elizabeth Bennet and Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, and the quotes in the margins.  Another Karen White novel that engages, mystifies, and satisfies readers as they unwind the puzzles of On Folly Beach.

Please check out the rest of the stops on the tour. And check back tomorrow for a guest post on Karen White’s writing space.

About the Author:

Karen’s novel The Memory of Water was a WXIA-TV Atlanta & Company Book Club Selection. Her work has been reviewed in Southern Living, Atlanta Magazine, the Atlanta  Journal-Constitution, and by Fresh Fiction, among many others, and has been adopted by numerous independent booksellers for book club recommendations. Last year her 2007 novel Learning to Breathe received several honors, notably the National Readers’ Choice Award and the Booksellers’ Best Award, which in 2009 was again presented to Karen, this time for The Memory of Water.

US/Canada Giveaway for 2 copies of On Folly Beach by Karen White:

1.  Leave a comment about what historical period fascinates you and why.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, or otherwise spread the word about the giveaway and leave me a link.

Deadline May 20, 2010, at 11:59PM EST.